Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So, About That "Ready for Use" Pool...

Alternatively titled: Team Stimey's tutorial on how to set up an Intex above-ground pool without getting a divorce.

Round about every May, I start to think about the kind of backyard pool my kids are going to need for the summer. When they were little, this decision was easy. We just got those hard plastic wading pools and they were delighted with them. Each of these tend to last a couple of summers.

Last year, the kiddos were a little bigger and wouldn't reasonably fit into one of those tiny pools, so I got them an inflatable pool that was about a foot and a half deep and they were very happy all summer. I had briefly looked at the bigger Intex pools because they seemed like a lot of fun, but every time I looked at them a little closer I got kinda sweaty and nervous, which is how we ended up with the inflatable pool.

That pool was obnoxious, especially after the top ring sprung a leak and I had to re-inflate it every single time we used it. Plus, the filling and emptying of said pool was tedious and resulted in an extremely water-logged yard. It worked fine for a year, but I knew I didn't want to go that route again.

But I had to find something, because I don't think my stopgap plan was going to keep them entertained for long.

Easy to maintain, but dull.

Then I saw this picture on a box and I forgot everything about the cold sweats and twitchiness that came with further thought about such a pool.

They are having SO much fun!

My mom was in town visiting and was looking for a gift to buy Alex and I for our anniversary and then she got sucked into the photo on the front of the box (you know, figuratively) and she told us she would buy us this pool, which is deceptively inexpensive for such a large tub of water.

Unfortunately, we didn't see the fine print on the other sides of the box.

After setting up this pool, which IS awesome, by the way, I have some suggestions for their packaging materials.

And if you are interested in a little foreshadowing, here is my last packaging suggestion:

We thought we had found that flat spot in our yard and proceeded to lay out a tarp as ground cover/grass destroyer. (Also, here's a tip if you purchase this particular brand of hell kind of pool: poke holes in the tarp to prevent under-pool water collection.

For some reason, we thought that laying out sand under the pool would be a good way to even out any holes in our grass, making for a smoother, less hole poke-y pool experience.

We are fucking morons, by the way.

 At least Alex was fully on board.

See: Divorce Level Event

In fact, actual construction of the pool DID only take an hour or so, especially with the help of some highly skilled labor, a billion-page instruction manual, and a provided DVD of those same instructions.

Said highly skilled labor.

 Other members of Team Stimey were less helpful.

How's that soft grass and the shade, kiddos?

And just like that, we had a pool!!

Or so it would seem.

Here's the thing about Alex and I. We could have just attached the little filter that came with the pool, added some chemicals and been done with it. But we remembered in the nick of time that we are essentially very, very lazy people who would probably not remember to chlorinate the pool daily. So we decided to buy an optional salt water filter, making ours the smallest salt water pool in existence.

The selling point for this particular type of pool filter? Water with less salt content than that of human tears! Seriously. That's what is says in the instruction book.

Anyway, we had ordered this filter, and it was not due to arrive for several days, which meant that we had a sad, empty pool tormenting our kids during shipping time, filter set up, water filling, and salt dissolving.

As soon as the filter came, I set it up and gave Sam the important job of beginning the water filling.

It was an exciting moment, y'all.

 The moment got less exciting, however, after I saw the way the pool was filling.

Being who I am, and somehow holding onto the steadfast belief that if the ground LOOKS flat and if I WANT it badly enough, that the ground will BE flat, so I should probably just continue to fill the pool with 2000+ gallons of water until Alex gets home and freaks out about the alarming cant of the full pool and insists that we empty the pool and start again.

So it turns out that when the Intex people say "Lay out pool on level ground," that is actually an important calculation that you should not just guesstimate based on, "Sure, it looks pretty good."

At least the thing didn't explode with our kids inside it. That would have been HELLA dramatic. It did, however, feature an alarming bulge on the downslope and the metal frame looked to be leaning a little bit to the right.

Thus began the chore of emptying 2000+ gallons of water onto our lawn. I am really looking forward to our water bill this month, by the way.

In somewhat of a miracle, the draining system is actually really well thought out and didn't end up causing property damage to us or our neighbors.

The downside (pun intended) to our lopsided pool was that once it was empty, we had to figure out how to make the ground flat. We were well past the point of no return and the only other pretty flat place in our yard was occupied by a swing set. We decided that the pool pretty much had to stay where it was and that we were either going to have to raise one side of the pool or lower the other side.

Seeing as how sand is not really a good option to raise a pool because it will settle and get packed down and lead to a lopsided pool, but just slightly later in the summer AND because we saw from our ineffective sand smoothing experiment of earlier, happier days, that you would need A LOT of sand, we decided to lower half of our pool.

Of course, because we were sooooo clever earlier in the process, now we didn't just have to dig up the offending dirt, but we got to remove the 200 pounds of sand that we had inexplicably dumped on our lawn several days ago. The sand didn't even do what we thought it would anyway. If anything, all it did was make the ground LESS flat.

It was my idea to bust out our tiller. I was due for a good idea.

If our lawn wasn't destined to be wrecked before, it was now. Alex tilled, while I moved dirt around. Initially, all we could find was our snow shovel, which was NOT the right tool for this job. Fortunately, however, Alex eventually found our regular shovel buried under weeds in our defunct garden. I don't know why I didn't think to look there.

I promise that I didn't just sit back and take pictures. I totally helped.

Although you wouldn't know it by looking at Mr. Angryface.

Honestly, Alex was probably about an hour away from flying to Intex headquarters with the pool in his lap and throwing it on the desk of the CEO. But based on our next guesstimate of, sure that looks about right (those who do not remember history are destined to repeat it; also, those who do not remember history are welcome at our house), we determined that we were close to done.

Through all of this, the local wildlife has been delighted. The birds are thrilled that we dug up all the bugs for them and they are also grateful that we erected a giant bird bath for them.

You may have to click to embiggen to see our two bird friends.

Other members of the animal kingdom were more confused and upset.

Again, embiggening really better helps you see her
worried expression and body language.

After several hours of Operation Intex, we threw in the towel, repositioned the pool, decided to completely ignore the sharp drop off in the middle of the pool where our digging began (we call it Dead Man's Reef), and put a few inches of water in the pool to see how successful we'd been.

Answer: Mondo successful.

Or, really, Team Stimey successful.

It's a little caddywampus, but mostly okay.

We enlisted Jack's help to secure the tarp to the ground again, which he did while repeatedly saying, "Whap, whap, whap" and humming the them to the original Donkey Kong. I don't even know where he heard that. Seriously, the kid needs to put in his job application to the Nintendo people now.

"Whap, whap, whap..."

Our last hurdle with the pool was getting all the salt levels and copper something or other levels right. I think I might have managed to do that except for the fact that I dipped one of the little test strips in and it came out a color that wasn't even anywhere on the results chart. I don't know what that means, but the water hasn't killed my kids yet, so maybe I'll just pretend everything is okay. What could possibly go wrong with that philosophy?

I am a little concerned that my dog laps up the water that slooshes over the edge of the pool when kids are playing in it. If the salt level is less concentrated than that of human tears, does that mean that she won't start hallucinating and drying out? And what is the salt concentration of doggy tears anyway?

My poor dog is really stressed out about the whole thing.

So, now that I have firmly made the point that you should never, ever in a million years attempt to construct one of these things, I should probably tell you that now that the hard labor is over, this pool is the best thing that has ever happened to us. It has been up and operational for seven days now and my kids have gone swimming for all but two of them. This pool is going to save our summer.

I'm sure that, come fall, I will have a whole other post about Team Stimey and the foibles of dismantling and attempting to store the Intex above-ground pool, but for now, we are the happiest people on the block.

Well, except for the people across the street who have an actual, in-ground pool. They're probably happier.

Do you want to know how happy we are? (Even Alex.) I now present to you some photos from Day One of Swimming in the Pool.

Loading the water toys!

First entry.

 Could they look happier?! (Even underwater Sam is happy.)

Okay. Yes. They COULD look happier.

I asked Jack if it was awesome to have his very own pool. His response? "Yes, and by the way, OUR very own pool."

Summer just got awesome around here.

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